Inspiration: Japan

My trip to Japan was filled with new experiences and plenty of inspiration. Being forced to deal with new environments open your senses to everything around you. Coming away from this trip, I have heaps of ideas for new stories, but also new perspectives of old.

As a travelling experiences though, here are some of my highlights:

Climbing Mount Fuji.

Even now I still can’t quite believe we did it, and made it both up and down. My impression of the task beforehand was that it would be a fairly decent hike, nothing too strenuous. I mean, I’ve heard so many accounts of people doing it. The reality was much more difficult. At some parts of the trail, it was easier doing proper climbing using hands and feet than walk. The thinning air, was also a new experience. You still felt quite strong in your legs, but at the same time, you had no quite the power to bring that out. Living on a flat land and never climbed anything higher than a tree before, my body was not prepared for that experience. Even though it was all cloudy when we got to the top, the feeling of accomplishment was enormous.

The food.

Eating, ordering, food etiquette etc. Luckily none of us suffer from any allergies or are particularly picky with our food and we both like to eat. Most places had pictures on the menus and it was just to point at something that looked delicious. However, one evening we went to a small bar in the Kyoto neighborhood where we lived, where they only had a Japanese menu and no pictures. The waitress with very limited English (neither my sister nor I speak Japanese) did her very best to explain the menu to us and we ended up having some of the best food of the whole trip. Prepared behind the bar for us, the most incredible moist, fresh, tasty chicken wings, among much else that evening. We also developed a love affair with the sixth floor restaurants. Quite common, at least in the larger cities in Japan is for a building to have a different restaurant on each floor and you can’t always see what kind of place it is, you just have to get into the elevator and see where you end up. The first time we did this, we followed a group of Japanese girls to the sixth floor (when in doubt follow the locals) and ended up at a really nice restaurant. After this, whenever we couldn’t make up or mind for what food we wanted, we would end up on the sixth floor. It was very rarely we were disappointed with the food. The great thing as well is that most food is served in small portions to share, which is perfect when you want to try everything on the menu and if there is something you don’t like, you’ll try something else.

The people.

Friendly, polite and despite obvious language and culture barriers I’ve never felt so safe in a foreign country before. The mentality of the people compared to westerns is so different. Walking home late one night back to our hotel after we missed the last train, we walked past a group of Japanese (quite drunk) young men, who simply bowed towards us and let us pass without a word, whereas a bit further down the road we were accosted by two Americans who were blatantly rude and obnoxious shouting after us. It is simply a different mentality and I’ve never felt so welcome in a country where I absolutely understood nothing and often felt like a helpless child.

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Japan in pictures

As you might know I’ve had some weeks off over the summer and one of the reasons were because I went to Japan on holiday.

It was one of the most amazing trips I have ever made. So much to see, so much to do, so different to any place I have ever visited before.

The sprawling metropolitan that is Tokyo, we could spend weeks there and still find something new to do.

Climbing Mount Fuji

Visiting old Japan in Kyoto

And the new in Osaka

And some amazing food along the way.

If I could I would go back again, and again, and again.

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Summer Holiday

I will abandon this blog for a month during the summer holidays. I will be in Japan (excited!) for part of it and the rest of the time I will try to spend outside (if the weather gods allow it).

I’m going to try to finish some summer reads and spend some time free-writing using an actual pen and paper rather than being attached to a computer all the time.

See you at the end of August, in time for the school start and I have to return to my proper life.

view from my window

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Working with a new computer programme

I have long been old school, simply using a word document for my writing. I would open a new document and start typing. Not worrying about needing to move scenes around etc. I always started at A and went through the alphabet to Z, then THE END.

Then I started to experiment with my writing. Writing differently, to see if I could find another way to write and to write better. That’s when I realised I also needed to use a different tool.

I chose Scrivner, simply because they are a sponsor of NaNoWriMo, I had heard about it before and of course the generous 30 day trial period. Installing the programme on my computer, with the help of my IT consultant (i.e my brother), I spent two days going through the tutorial to learn the basics at least (yes I know, they probably recommend less than half that time, but I am a slow learner when it comes to technical stuff). The programme is not particularly difficult. If you want to you can basically use it as a word document, open a new document and start writing, which is what I did do in the beginning. Now I am slowly getting to know more of its features and use more of them.

My triumph was probably when I managed to compile parts of my novel into a word document and it looked beautiful. I highly recommend Scrivener for anyone who wants a reasonable priced writing programme with features you can choose to use if you want to, but it won’t hurt the formatting of your novel if you don’t.

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What do you write and why?

Fellow novel writers, do you enter short story competitions? Or do you stick to one form?

I flutter between the two, mostly because I enjoy both. However, I often find that as I’m working towards a deadline for a short story competition, I neglect my novels for longer than I should. And now when I might throw in Screenwriting in to the mix as well, I’m wondering if I should stick to one for a longer period of time and see how it pans out.

Any writing is practice and down the line it will make me a better writer. However, I am worried that by moving from one to next, without excelling at one will leave me with a bunch of unpublishable writing.

In the beginning of the year, I set a goal to enter at least three short story competitions every four months and to come up with a new story for each, or a new perspective of an old story. At the same time I feel I am getting nowhere really with my novels. I’m editing two, one in Swedish and one in English, while I’m planning a new novel, which I might be writing during NaNoWriMo this year, unless I get to anxious and start it before.

Perhaps I’m simply over-reaching my capacity and writing-time and need to cut down on both, to feel more efficient during the time I have. Except that I hate readjusting my goals, as it would be like giving up on them. So my lasting question is what form do you write? And why?

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Food waste and our environment

The other day when I went to the supermarket, an elderly man came up to me when I was looking through the reduced price food section and asked if I needed money. Once I recovered from the shock of the man’s forthrightness, I told him no and explained to him that I don’t like perfectly edible food to go to waste.

As I got home, the question kept bouncing around in my mind. I felt the man had over stepped the boundaries of what is socially acceptable. Then I thought he might just be curious and this happened in Hampstead after all. Hampstead, if you don’t know is a very posh place in Northwest London, where a lot of rich people live. Perhaps he has not been exposed to many unprivileged people in his grocery store or perhaps he’s a philanthropist with lots of money who was looking for someone to spend it on and I just lost a great opportunity (I have digressed somewhat, but there might be a character in there somewhere).

What I wanted to write about is the increasing concern I have over the state of our planet. For one of the novels I’m writing, I have done extensive research into our global climate problem.

Me hunting the reduced food section for near expiry date food is my small contribution to reducing food waste. 7 million tonnes of food and drink is wasted every year from UK households. I understand the need for an expiration/best before date etc. on our food. We don’t want anyone to get ill, but there is also a part of me that can’t walk past food that is about the get chucked in the bin, when it is still perfectly edible. At this particular day I found some minced meat with the same day expiration, that still looked good and a bag of lettuce with some wilted leaves. Because I cook a lot of mince I knew I would eventually use it so put it straight in the freezer when I came home and the lettuce I paired with some cucumber I already had at home to make a simple salad for dinner. By using the things I knew I had in the fridge and planned ahead for things I could do in the next couple of weeks I have saved some food from the rubbish bin.

The novel I’m writing, I started two years ago during NaNoWriMo and I can’t quite let go of it yet, even though it needs a total transformation to get anywhere near where I want it to be. The theme has pulled me in though and I keep researching about the environmental consequences for our planet of the way we currently live and use our resources.

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Screenwriting

I have an idea, that I have had for awhile, not quite knowing what to do with it. It is very visual and rely on symbols in the storytelling, and I’m leaning towards that it would really suit better as a film than a book. But how to do that? I think I have to learn a new craft.

I don’t have any high hopes of mastering script writing on the first go. It took me about six full length novels before I even got to the point of wanting to show that to anyone, and I am still a couple of completed manuscript before getting close to a publishing contract. So with my feet firmly on the ground, I will spend the summer reading up on screenwriting while preparing for hard work and numerous wrong turns before getting closer to success. But you do have to start somewhere, right?

‘Don’t be afraid to fail, be afraid not to try’

I do think it is important to always evolve and find new avenues of inspiration. Screenwriting would be one for me, new but still close enough to novel writing that I can feel a bit of confidence. I am pushing out the boat, but I can still see the shore and I have my life vest on, so if the boat turns over I won’t drown.

What would be a new challenge for you?

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Happy Handstand Day!

Today I’m celebrating handstand day!

Rosa fötter

This was taken a couple of years ago in Croatia.

If you’re feeling low get some new energy by going upside down. Feeling the rush of blood to your brain and creativity will flow.

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Midsummer

A very Swedish thing is to celebrate midsummer around the summer solstice, the longest day of the year. In Sweden midsummer’s eve is celebrated on the Friday in the week of June 24, whereas in other Scandinavian and Northern European countries, midsummer is celebrated on the 24th, no matter what day it is.

midsommarstång

Midsommarstång – maypole

In the far south where my family live the sun do set for a couple of hours during the night, but further north it stays above the horizon all night.

The celebration itself is a joyful event, with good food, good drinks and great company. Sometimes even good weather! Every year, the newspapers are filled with predictions to what the weather will be like (mostly rain) and that is what everyone seems to be talking about for days. Worrying whether you can sit outside and eat your herring, drink your snaps and indulge in strawberry layer cake or you will have to cram all your guest in to the living room while the rain batter the windows.

Of course, we can not forget to bring up the dance around the midsommarstång or maypole. Also a time when we worry about the rain. Should we bring the fika outside despite the newspapers warning for torrential rain for the weekend? But you cant possibly enjoy the dance around the maypole unless you have plenty of fika. And the dance, with the jumping frogs. Yes, we do pretend that we are frogs without ears and tails hopping around the maypole. This lovely video is from London’s very much unofficial celebration that takes place in Hyde Park every year, on midsummer day (Saturday) so more people can join.

To an outsider, this probably sounds like some strange traditions, but I do have fond memories of midsummers past and would have loved to blow of work tomorrow to join my fellow ex-pats.

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Taxation without representation

I normally don’t flaunt my political opinions on the Internet (even though some of you might detect which way I lean), however today I feel it is important to tell you about my experience being denied the right to vote.

Today I was denied to vote in a country where I live (resident not citizen, which is apparently the crucial point), where I pay my taxes and in a referendum that is very much going to decide my future. I’m talking about the referendum in Britain regarding in or out of the EU.

Leading up to the vote, I contacted my local borrow Barnet to inquire as to what my rights were. I told them I was a RESIDENT of the UK and got a thorough explanation by the official I was talking to as to why it was important to register in time so I would not loose out on the right to vote. I was then given a web site where I could register.

I filled in all my details online and received a letter about two weeks later in the mail where it clearly says: ‘you will be added to the Register on 01/07/2016 UNLESS (my capitals) there is an election or a REFERENDUM (again my capitals) called before then.’ Satisfied that I had done the correct thing, after all, I have the letter as proof, I walked up to my local polling station today, where I was denied the right to vote.

The lady tells me I can’t vote because there is a G by my name. ‘What does that mean?’ I ask, looking for clarification as I have a letter that tells me I can vote. They then get an ‘official’ that tells me he is not going to let me vote because there is a G by my name. Again I ask for an explanation. Someone needs to explain to me exactly why I am not allowed to vote and why there is this allusive G by my name that somehow excludes me from the voting booth.

In the mean time, there are several people in the queue getting past the lady, simply by giving their name and the first line of their address. No polling cards needed, not even an ID. If I would have been more thrifty, I would have noticed this earlier and gone over said an address and name at random, considering she sat openly with the list, ticking people off. Of curse doing that would mean I have no scruples, which is why I did not do it, even though the thought passed my mind when I was waiting in a phone queue to Barnet council. It turns out that because I’m a citizen of Sweden (another EU country, might I add) I am not allowed to vote in a referendum that will decide my future as a EU citizen living and paying taxes in another EU country.

What angers me the most, is that my future is in the hands of others and there is nothing I can do about it. If GB votes out, who knows what they will do with all the immigrants (me included) and do I really want to stay in a country that does not want me? Sitting on that chair, I had the same feeling as I had, living in the US post 9/11 where everything was dependent on me filling in the right papers at the right time for me to be able to get in and out of the country. It is not how I want to live.

Not being allowed to vote in a country where you live and pay taxes is not democracy.

As a small rebellion I am going to be extra Swedish over the weekend and celebrate Midsummer for three days!

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